Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fools, Tricksters, Festivals, and Spring!

Hodja in a Yellow Caftan
Osman Hamdi Bey, 1905

"Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb
like the sun, it shines everywhere. "
William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

On the first day of the month, known as April Fool's Day, we are given free reign to play good natured jokes on friends and family. Many different cultures shared days of foolishness around the start of April. The Romans had a festival named Hilaria on March 25, rejoicing in the resurrection of Attis. The Hindu calendar has Holi, and the Jewish calendar has Purim. Perhaps there's something about the time of year, with its turn from winter to spring, that lends itself to lighthearted celebrations.

Hodja is one of our favorite fools, and there are many stories associated with this interesting character from Turkey.

Nasreddin Hodja - Information and stories about the beloved character of Turkish tales, including reading comprehension exercises. This website is also a portal to many other Hodja sites.

A well-known Trickster in Oral Tradition is Anansi. Anansi is one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore. He is also known as Anase, Kweku Ananse, and Anancy; and in the Southern United States he has evolved into Aunt Nancy. He is a spider, but often acts and appears as a man. The story of Anansi is akin to the Coyote trickster found in many Native American cultures.

The Anansi tales are believed to have originated in the Ashanti tribe in Ghana. (The word Anansi is Akan and means, simply, spider.) They later spread to other Akan groups and then to the West Indies, Suriname, and the Netherlands Antilles. On CuraƧao, Aruba, and Bonaire he is known as Nanzi, and his wife as Shi Maria.

Jamaican Anansi Stories - Tricksters are universal figures in folkore and Anansi is one of our most beloved. This site offers a wide variety of Anansi tales as well as trickster folklore from various cultures. The text also includes transcriptions of folk music, and a large collection of riddles, all cross-referenced with folklore studies from other cultures. There are also musical notations in some of the texts for the musical among us!

And what would April Fool's Day be without some laughter?

Tales of Laughter – What better way to jump into the month of fools than reading Tales of Laughter from 1908? A collection of familiar and not so familiar tales from Russia, Ireland, Spain, France and many more countries from around the globe. They are sure to have you smiling with delight!

The first day of spring this year was March 20 and soon, colorful flowers will be blooming here in the east, which calls for some stories about spring and the sun!
- Fourteen stories to celebrate the wonderful season of spring.

How the Sun Was Rescued - Siberia

Saving Spring – Scandinavia  

The Spring Beauty - Native American/Chippewa

Why Cats Sit on the Doorstep in the Sun - Rumania

Earth Day is April 22. What better way to celebrate than sharing stories about our beautiful planet?

Earth Cakes, Sky Cakes – Folktale from Vietnam

When The Earth and Sky Were Married - Folktale from Muria/India

Earth Care – World Folktales to Talk About

A limited preview of this excellent book by Margaret Read MacDonald. You can read some of the folktales online, but I bet you will want a copy of your own.

After we leave the month of April it will be time to celebrate and explore the cultural celebration of Japan's Children's Day or Kodomo no Hi.

Woman Playing with a Child
with a Tengu Mask

by Kitagawa Utamaro
Japanese Folk Stories and Fairy Tales - Thirty-three folktales collected by Mary F. Nixon-Roulet and published in 1908. You can download the book for your own files.

Kids Web Japan
- A number of Japanese folktales for you students to read. Later, they may explore the culture of Japan using different links.


Fables and Trickster Tales From Around the World – From Edusitement, lesson plans, information and stories, everything you need to introduce your students to those globe-trotting tricksters, Anansi, Brer Rabbit, Fox, and Rabbit. 

Leap into spring with ABC Counting games, math facts, printables, word searches and more.

Flowers in the Classroom – Grades 5 to 8 Language Arts: Legendary Flowers lesson plan including myths, folktales and legends of flowers.

- This is a colorful, fun and information filled website on all things Earth: Lesson plans and activities for both teachers and parents, the history behind Earth Day, coloring pages, puzzles, clip art and so much more.

Japanese Folktales Lesson Plans for 3-6 

Teacher’s Resource Guide: Japanese Art and Culture Outreach Kit - Although you may not be able to borrow the actual kit, there are many helpful curriculum ideas in this guide you may duplicate on your own.

Activity Village – Make your own carp kite or origami to celebrate Kodomo no hi (Children’s Day). There are many other crafts, activities and printables to make this Japanese national holiday shine!

Please note, websites change at a rapid pace and weblinks may change or break without notice. I cannot be responsible for redirected or broken links.  At the time of this posting all links were in working order. Thank you for understanding.


Karen Chace 2009 ©

This blog post was researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission, please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my blog via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.

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